Saturday, April 19, 2008

Let's adopt the Knutson Plan

I was going to make this proposal, but I got distracted by other things, and so I was beat to the punch by Mandy Knutson, of Nashua, NH, in a letter to the editor in the today's Boston Globe:

I have an idea that would solve the shortage of workers on Cape Cod ("Cape employers left scrambling," Page A1, April 11). I read in a subsequent edition of the Globe about a possible shortage of jobs for teenagers in Boston as companies and nonprofits are cutting back ("Summer jobs may be at risk for teens," City & Region, April 16). Why not hire and house teenagers from the Boston area on the Cape? Just a thought.

I have had this same thought every year when I am on the Cape and restaurant owners and others tell me about their difficulty in getting foreign workers when the federal government puts limits on the number of work visas. Even when they can get workers, they have to pay hefty fees to agencies to recruit the workers and pay their airfares. Each year, a different country seems to provide the most young adults. Sometimes Poland, sometimes Bulgaria, and so on.

I don't begrudge young Eastern Europeans a chance to get to know America and earn some money. In fact, it is probably good for the US to have these folks get to know us in a way other than what they see in the movies and television shows. It is also good for us to learn a bit about their countries.

But, I am struck by the fact that teenagers and young adults in Boston, Quincy, Fall River, and New Bedford have persistently high unemployment rates, and yet no job creation agencies or foundations or Cape Cod employer groups seem to have thought about training and recruiting them to do jobs that pay reasonably well and are much closer to home than Bulgaria. An advantage, too, is that you would have all winter and spring to schedule the training so they could be ready to take on their job responsibilities upon arrival.

Thank you, Mandy Knutson, for making the suggestion. Maybe someone will pick up on it.

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